The miracle of Chanukah came during an ideological war between the Greek Empire and the Jewish people. The Greeks believed only in the physical world, defined by logic and reason. They worshipped the human being as the center of the universe. The highest wisdom, they felt, was the human intellect, human rights are the highest morality. The people displaying the most strength, beauty, intelligence, wealth were worshipped like gods. It is a finite world that is the base of all Western Civilization.
The Jewish people on the other hand, believe in a Infinite and miraculous world, reaching beyond the visible boundaries of the physical world. Our highest wisdom is the Torah, which was received from the Infinite Creator of everything, at Mount Sinai. Hashem brought us out of Egypt by miracles and wonders, the fabric of nature was shattered, to reveal that the world is run by an all-powerful G-d.
Through studying the Torah and performing the mitzvot, we can transform Olam HaZeh (this world) into Olam HaBah (the world to come). Hashem the Infinite source of light and life, can be fully revealed in this world to come. In this future world there is no place for evil, sickness or even death. Every person is given the ability to earn a portion of Olam HaBah.
So this creates an extremely difficult question. How can lighting these little candles on a menorah during these cold, dark nights lead us to an infinite world? The Torah calls the Greek Empire “darkness.” We can be blinded by the amazing advances of science. We can grow too comfortable with western culture. What else could we need in a world of beautiful museums and architecture, visual magic on movie screens and i-phones, exciting sporting events in mighty coliseums, modern medical breakthroughs? But there is a danger, we are too distracted to see. We can grow arrogant with human intellect and stop looking beyond the physical world.
These little candles in the cold, darkness of the Roman exile, remind us that there is something more. They can remind us of humility, before the greatness of an infinite Creation. They lead us to explore the oceans and eternal wellsprings of wisdom, contained in the Torah. They direct us to find that there is an all-loving G-d that watches over all of us. These little candles remind us to keep searching in the darkness. Reminding us that as good as the world is now, there is something greater, more miraculous and more complete. There is a future world, where mankind can finally be whole (shalem), and then the world will really have peace (shalom).
Wishing everyone a happy Chanukah, and may we all begin to search for an even greater world.
1st Teves 5771